Cardella: About Language

The slang definition of “woke” is the “awareness of social injustice.” There may be a simpler use of “woke.” If you haven’t noticed, human beings have gotten progressively lazier over the years. Our use of language is one of the areas where laziness is becoming more evident. Want proof? The definition of “woke” is already eroding into simply meaning “aware.” The “social justice” part is disappearing.

Woke has one syllable. “Aware” has two syllables. It’s easier pronouncing “woke.” And, if you’re writing either word, “aware” has one more letter. We’re just being more efficient than you old folks, you might say. No. You’re just linguistically lazier. For a generation that has a need for auto-lacing sneakers, convenience has become the most- respected priority in life.

I realize that you’d like to blame Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC, if you’re woke) for this situation, but she is not responsible. AOC was too busy debating with Fox News over whether the New Green Deal means the end of civilization as we know it to invent the word “woke.” Be assured, though– I AM currently conducting an investigation to see whether we can blame AOC for use of the word “jawn.”

You, dear reader, wonder if this column is leading anywhere. Is this just another cranky complaint by your aging columnist? Truth telling is in order. I can’t sleep. This column is being written at 5:30 in the morning. A time fit for only dairy farmers to be awake. Secondly, a rogue car alarm outside our new place is incessantly screeching. And I’m finding out that the eighth floor of our apartment building is not nearly high enough to not hear the damn thing. And if there must be a third thing, my wireless mouse has stopped functioning. It turns out, the battery went dead. I’m being forced to search for a fresh battery amidst the turmoil of unpacked boxes in our apartment. If, by now, you fear that Cantankerous Cardella is about to launch into a rant about why we have allowed ourselves into a situation where we have allowed ourselves to become so dependent on EVEREADY or DURACELL, fear not. But only because of the limitations of space. It could be said with some justification that I’m doing what all seniors do, finding something to blame the younger generation for. There, I’ve ended the sentence with a preposition and upset the prissy grammarians out there. Where the hell was I? Oh, I was registering my complaint about the use of the slang word “woke.”

Now it’s not that I’m against the evolution of language. I realize that any language that doesn’t evolve becomes a dead language. But what I am against is having to learn the slang of kids hanging on a street corner when THEY haven’t bothered to learn the essentials of their own language. Using slang such as “jawn” to substitute for any word in the English language seems to me to obscure rather than clarify. When Phillies announcer Tom McCarthy — possibly the most unhip person outside the state of Iowa — uses the word “jawn,” I worry that we’ve reached the point of no return. By the way (which I refuse to abbreviate as “btw” — heck ,I feel guilty for even using “lol” for “laugh out loud”), listening to McCarthy explain the meaning of “jawn” to analyst/sidekick John Kruk is, in itself, a life-altering experience.

Perhaps it takes chutzpah (to borrow from the Yiddish) for a South Philadelphian to complain about the way others have debased our language. We are guilty of not only debasing the Queen’s English, but boasting about it. There really is no justification for mangling “did you eat” into “jeet.” We also seem to feel that the word “you” can’t stand alone as a plural.

Therefore, the ugly “youse.” I don’t think it’s pretentious to avoid using the word “youse.”

There are infinitely wonderful things about South Philly, but use of the slang “youse” is not one of them.

Understand, I’m not proud that I never learned another language. Growing up in a second-generation Italian-American household, I never learned to speak the language of the old country. My American-born parents spoke an Italian dialect that was used as a code for keeping family secrets from innocent ears. Thus, I never learned that Uncle Vito had spread his seed generously among the women in the greater Philadelphia area. So many unknown cousins. So little time.

When I entered high school, anyone taking the academic curriculum was required to take two years of Latin. I’m not knocking Latin. What would Ancient Rome be without it? After all, without Latin, how would I have gotten through life without translating Caesar’s Gallic Wars? Good for me. But, the last time I checked, no one was conversing in Latin at 5th and Jackson. I don’t think there’s any possibility of me running into Brutus on the subway. His knife. maybe.

Like most Americans, I speak only one language — English. And not very well, at that. Like most Americans, I expect that when I travel out of my country, that everyone else speak English. How dare those pompous French question my inability to parlez-vous Francaise?

But, hey! You, too, can become president even if you can’t spell “honor” in your Twitter feed. Or, for that matter, don’t even have any honor.

Oh, don’t get me started again.